HSI seeks further legislative protection for the Coorong wetlands
Dire warnings of an impending ecological collapse of the Coorong wetlands and lakes Albert and Alexandrina, part of Australia’s most iconic river system, the Murray-Darling, have been ignored by the government. Although the government was presented in May with the report on the drought crisis facing the Murray-Darling Basin, which specified the urgency with which water needs to be resupplied to these areas to ensure their survival, the government has only now been spurred into action by the surprise leaking of the report.
“This crisis facing the Murray-Darling is not new,” said Danielle Annese, HSI Program Manager. “Since coming into power, the government has been well aware of how critical water shortages in the area have been, and yet they have failed to act on this most recent and dire of predictions. This report has provided them with a deadline for action. If water is not returned to the Coorong and Lower Lakes by October there will be widespread collapse of this ecological community, beyond which it seems it will be unlikely to ever recover.”
Recognising the fragility of the Coorong and Lower Lakes ecosystems, Humane Society International (HSI) nominated these areas for listing as a critically endangered ecological community under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act earlier this year. While the usual listing process can take years to run its course, it is clear that the Coorong and Lower Lakes do not have the luxury of time.
“This is an area that, along with being critically endangered itself, supports an abundance of nationally listed threatened species,” said Ms Annese. “This is an urgent situation and it is essential that Environment Minister Peter Garrett prioritises and fast-tracks the listing of this ecological community.”
To secure greater protection for vital drought-stricken habitats, HSI has also nominated the Macquarie Marshes in NSW, another ecological community that is undergoing widespread decline through lack of water resulting from extensive flow diversions and extractions from the Macquarie River, for listing as an endangered ecological community under the national legislation.